Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Experimental Cookery 2012: Spicy Lamb Burgers

This one came from "River Cottage Every Day". Other than involving the toasting and then grinding of quite a few spices, it was dead easy. However, it was a bit time-consuming, especially since there was a "leave for 1 hour" step in there! The resulting burgers were very nice, although I found mine to be a bit too spicy. Still, there was a nice cooling yoghurt to go with it, and some salad, so that was okay. I'm sure we'll be doing these again at some point, although perhaps more for barbeque weather than just for general use - I think I prefer the classic beef burgers that Jamie has me making.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Competition Season Wash-up 2012

It's been a rotten year. We started the season with the highest of hopes - the band was playing well, we'd recruited a number of new, stronger players, and everything seemed set for a good year.

But the performance at Dunbar was bad, and the result equally disappointing. And then the result at the Scottish was likewise bad. At that point, a mere three weeks in, it was already apparent that the band weren't going to succeed to any great extent.

It was downhill from there. The new players we had recruited gradually drifted away - they had been promised a band that was going places, and that obviously wasn't the case, so off they went. There were increased rumblings of discontent against the Pipe Major (some fair, many not), especially surrounding a ceilidh that should never have gotten as far as it did. The British Championships were another bad result.

The band took a break at that point, intending to come back strong for the European Championships. Instead, things came to a head, and the Pipe Major quit.

And so, I was left holding the bag, with a week to go before Ireland, with a band in pieces, and with some other commitments to deal with.

But, if the truth be told, that couple of weeks was probably the happiest I had with the band this year. That was the spell when I led the band out to the Wheel's anniversary celebrations and met Princess Anne, I led the band out to several events in Linlithgow, and I led the band out in Ireland, something I had never expected to do, but was glad to get the chance to do at least once.

And then came the election of a new Pipe Major, which I've discussed before and won't go into again. That was the point where I finally decided that my time with the band was over. Events since then have convinced me that it's the right decision, and a good last week and relatively good Cowal hasn't changed my mind. I just hope the band will be in a strong position to carry on without me.

The Worlds was a bad competition, for many reasons. Cowal was a considerably better competition. And it does look like the band could do better next year. (Really, it could go either way.)

But the worst aspect of the season is something I've barely mentioned all year, because it concerns something that hasn't happened. After a very promising start, the Development Band effectively ceased to exist this year due to a lack of drummers. And that's entirely our own fault - our lead drummer refused to take on learners, he refused to let one of 'his' drummers take time out to teach them, and even sent away those learners that we had. So we never had a chance. A real shame, that.

There's a practice tonight, and I think another on Thursday (though I won't be attending the latter - LC needs the car, and I could do with the break). After that comes the AGM. All that remains is for me to conclude the business of the band as well as I can now, and then tender my resignation is as good a manner as I can.

Cowal Highland Gathering 2012

At the start of the season, we had hoped that Cowal would not be our last competition of the year. However, we quickly found that those competitions in September didn't include an event in our grade, and so were unsuitable. But then, a few competitions were cancelled, and some rescheduled... in the end, it turns out that Cowal was indeed the end.

Which, to be honest, is A Good Thing. This has been an absolutely brutal season, and being done with it is something of a relief.

Fortunately, Cowal itself was okay this year. Not great, which is too much to hope for in any case, but okay.

With no Development Band this year (boo!) and the 4A band not playing until 14:57, we didn't have to leave until an almost civilised hour - my pick-up was at 8:45 (although the bus was early - I was lucky I caught it!). And then on to the ferry, and on to Dunoon. We were there just after 11, and free until 1pm. So I sought out an early lunch, enjoyed the glorious sunshine, regretted not wearing any sunblock, and read "The Great Gatsby".

At 1pm, we started getting ready. In truth, this was far too early, but it was a necessary step following the Worlds, given all the work that was required on the chanters. Even so, one of our members had to be dropped due to his chanter just breaking down completely. A shame - the Pipe major had hoped not to drop anyone on the last outing.

As we made ready, some spots of light rain fell. Still, it stayed dry while we played. We played well, probably giving our best showing of the season. It wasn't a prize-winning performance, but we'd known that going in. But, still, a decent performance.

And then we waited some more.

Now, as you may well know, there have been controversies in the past at Cowal over the question of whether or not we would march down the street. Had I been in charge at this one, it had been my intention to do the parade. However, the new pipe major was rather less keen. This created an issue; there was one parent in particular for whom the issue meant a huge amount. (And, for various reasons, she was taking things particularly hard at the moment. But that's not for me to relate.)

So, there was a rant, and tears, and the pipe major and lead drummer relented, and we were doing the march. Huzzah.

We went on for the march past, and as we finished our circuit the rain started. And then, just as the chieftain started his speech, the rain really started. And it poured, and poured, and poured. We got utterly, thoroughly soaked. And, naturally, they had chosen a chieftain who decided that now was the time to be particularly chatty. At length, he finished... only for the mic to be handed to the head of the RSPBA... who proved much more chatty than his predecessor in the role. And then, the mic was handed on again, this time to the head of the Cowal organising committee... who proved to be another chatty man.

Then came the prize giving, which went on very, very slowly.


Eventually, we learned that we had not, in fact, won a prize. We came 11th - 14th and 11th for piping, 4th fro drumming, and 12th for ensemble, out of 15 in our grade.

And then we went and did the parade. Oddly, despite the rain and general unpleasantness, the parade was quite good fun. True, I could have done without the woman who stepped out of the crownd just long enough to grab my ass, but I guess that's Cowal - come for the piping, stay for the sexual harrassment. We completed the parade, and that was that.

We got back to the bus, and waited for the police to clear us to move out. And waited, and waited. We could have done the parade again in the time we waited, but no matter. Eventually, we were off.

And this year there was no incident. The journey home was long and tedious, and not helped by being too dark to read, but it was uneventful - and then it was over.

I finally arrived home at 11:45, spent a little time peeling off my wet clothes to let them dry, a bit more time winding down, and then got to bed about 12:30.

And that was Cowal, which turned out to be a relatively high note on which to end the season, and a relatively good experience with which to bow out of the band.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Experimental Cookery 2012: Popular Pizza Pies (Calzone)

This one comes from the Hairy Biker's "Perfect Pies", which I picked up on a whim from Tesco some months ago, and hadn't yet found opportunity to use. A calzone, in case you're not aware, is essentially a folded pizza - it looks something like a Cornish pasty, but with an entirely different set of ingredients within. In theory, they're lovely.

I'm not going to lie to you: this one's a bit involved. Putting the dough together takes a good 20 minutes, and requires some work. It then needs to be left an hour to rise, most of which I found was taken up in making the sauce and frying up some ingredients (they recommend mushrooms and salami, but given LC's unreasoning prejudice against fungi, I instead opted for chorizo and red pepper; we're going to be experimenting in the future).

Anyway, mix, knead, rise... chop, fry, stir... wait, wait, wait...

Putting it all together was relatively nice and easy, then there was a fold, a roll, and more waiting while the seal fixes. Then brush it with oil, and put it in the oven for 25 minutes.

We cooked them in two batches, and elected to eat from the second batch (due to timing). As the first batch came from the oven, LC's reaction was "oh wow..." Yes, they look good. Indeed, see for yourself:

So, then... how was it?

In one word: excellent.

In several more words, it was pretty much ideal - the crust was nicely browned and cooked, the filling was hot and suitably intense. All in all, it was a winner. Certainly, it blew Tesco's equivalent out of the water quite spectacularly. (And, fortunately, we have four left over to freeze. Huzzah!) We're definitely going to be having these again, and will no doubt put them into the rotation (along with the curries, lasagne, burgers, etc - those things that we make up in a batch and then freeze for later).

Two things, though: we're going to have to do some experimentation with the fillings. The chorizo and red peppers were great, but there are so many options out there to be tried, and no reason not to experiment. And LC noted that they would have benefitted with something to dip the crust in; a barbeque sauce or similar.

Tonight, we opted to have a calzone each and a few chips as an accompaniment. In future, I think they might be better served to have one between us, a few more chips, and a salad or similar as a side. One each was great, but it did feel a bit too much.

Anyway, it's a winner. Recommended.

One other consequence of this is that I find myself inspired. Jamie, Hugh, and Lorraine all do pizzas in their books, and they're all much the same as the Biker's calzone. And I do like a good pizza. So, I'm just going to give them a go, and see if they supplant store bought, or even takeaway, pizzas in my affections. Of course, there's a danger inherent in that, as I found when I did the burgers... if they're too good, they'll leave me entirely dissatisfied with convenience burgers, while at the same time not really having time to do the job 'properly' every time. Oh well, I guess it's quite a nice problem to have.

#29: "Pride and Prejudice", by Jane Austen (the #1 book on The List!)
#30: "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald (a book from The List)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My Favourite Weather

I'm much more a winter person than a summer. Simply put, I don't like being too hot. But I do actually like the sunshine.

So, my favourite days are the ones you sometimes get in winter, when the air is freezing cold but the sun is bright in a cloudless sky. When it's pleasant to go out for a walk, albeit bundled up warm, but when your breath fogs in the air, and your footsteps lighty crunch through the light frost.

Conversely, you get days like today, when it is hot and sticky, but the sky is horribly overcast and it's miserable and wet. Those are probably the days I like least, being the worst of all possible worlds.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Buying Presents for a Six-Year-Old Boy

"He likes Tranformers, Lego and Superheroes." So, yeah, that's going to be a tough one.

In order to achieve this mighty quest, we went on Friday to our local toy store, which is less than ten minutes' walk from the flat. Once there, I proceeded to pick out the thing that most screamed out to my inner child to buy. Strictly speaking, there was a need to look out for something fitting the theme, but given that Transformers, Lego, and Superheroes are all inherently awesome, that's not so much a limitation as just a given.

Frankly, the only difficulty is choosing which of the three to get. And even that's less difficult than it seems: you can now get superhero-themed Lego (both DC and Marvel, which is even more awesome), and near-Lego Transformers.

The only problem is that modern Lego is just too awesome. Lego "Star Wars", Lego "Pirates of the Caribbean", Lego superheroes, Lego "Lord of the Rings"... It's a good thing they also put maximum ages on the box, or I could have spent a fortune in there!

Oh, and finally: Happy Birthday nephew #1!

Three Films

So last week, as part of our ongoing cultural exchange, I finally persuaded Lady Chocolat to watch "Highlander", "Independence Day", and "The Terminator". The results were distinctly mixed.

I hadn't watched "Highlander" for several years, pretty much since I first got the DVD. And it just hasn't aged well. It probably didn't help that it's actually one of the worst DVDs I own, in terms of sound and picture quality; even the otherwise-excellent soundtrack was distinctly patchy. We watched for fifteen increasingly-uncomfortably minutes, before I suggested abandoning it.

"Independence Day", on the other hand, was a rousing success. We watched the special edition version, with the 9 minutes of restored footage (which, to be honest, don't add anything). And it was good - better than I remembered, in fact. It's an easy film to mock, what with the whole "defeat the aliens with a MacBook" climax, but if taken as a big, stupid blockbuster, it's actually well done. (Plus, it blows "The Day After Tomorrow" and especially "2012" out of the water, so that's something.)

And then there was "The Terminator", which LC had particularly resisted because of the bad taste left by "Terminator 3", the one film in the series that she had watched. (Also the worst film in the series, although opinion seems to be divided between that and "Salvation".) Anyway, T1 was another film I hadn't watched in years, again, probably since just after I first got the DVD.

We got about 50 minutes into this one, and LC was actually enjoying it a great deal (as expected...) when suddenly the film just froze. I tried cleaning the disk a couple of times, but to no avail. It seems that disk rot has taken it. So, we'll try to borrow a copy to watch the rest at some point, and then that's probably another one to upgrade to blu-ray when it is released.

(But why, oh why, couldn't the disk rot take the bad films instead? It's not like there's a shortage in my collection - there are two "Transformers" films and two "Dungeons & Dragons" films it can take, for starters! Plus the aforementioned T3, and indeed at least one of the "Highlander" sequels they never made.)

Monday, August 13, 2012


As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I was extremely surprised by how good the Olympics Opening Ceremony was. I was also somewhat shocked at just how well Team GM did at the games themselves. They excelled themselves, winning huge numbers of medals, and really improving the mood of the country.

It was bizarre. It was almost as if the country had taken a two-week holiday from its usual mediocrity.

In which case, last night's Closing Ceremony was the clearest possible indication that the holiday is over, and it's time to go back to things being rather pants.

I must admit, though, I was really impressed. When talking about it earlier in the day, I jokingly said that there could be worse things than the Spice Girls performing... only to admit that, no, there couldn't. That truly was the nadir, below which nothing worse was possible.

Turns out that I was wrong, a point made very, very clearly when Russell Brand came on. Dear oh dear.

Anyway, the Spice Girls were on, and they were just as awful as expected. I particularly liked the way they were miming, badly, and they hadn't bothered to get a good recording to use. It was almost as if they were being intentionally awful.

And despite this, worse was to come...

I have a certain amount of respect for Brian May and Roger Taylor for trying to soldier on with Queen despite the loss of their friend. Unfortunately, all they've achieved is to demonstrate that Freddie Mercury truly is irreplaceable. With the sole exception of their collaboration with George Michael, every "guest star" they have had since has resulted in the desecration of one of their classics. And last night's collaboration with Jessie J was no exception.

Actually, I suspect that's inevitable. When doing a cover version, you will always be compared with the original, and the better the original the harsher the criticism. That's why, when doing a cover version, you should always choose a song that had potential but where the original actually sucked, or something that was good but obscure. But under no circumstances should you attempt to cover something by Queen, because you're just not Freddie Mercury.

But the worst thing about that was not that the performance was woeful. The worst thing was that it was utterly unnecessary. Virutally nobody was performing live (including, I think, Brian May himself) - they were all performing to pre-recorded tracks. Which is fine - when the audience numbers in the billions, it takes nerves of steel to play live (if they even had that option).

However... if the vocals aren't live anyway, then Queen didn't need a "guest star" - just use footage of Freddie from when Queen were in concert. It's not like they didn't have it - they played such footage immediately before Queen took to the stage, as if to taunt us with what we were missing. ("Let's see what you could have won!")

But then, the organisers were already facing the problem that the highlight of their celebration of British music had come from Eric Idle, a comedian rather than a musician. Perhaps they felt it would have just been too much of a damning indictment to let a 20-year-dead icon steal the show.

Still, this has given a great idea to send to the BBC: they should do a 'talent' show in which Andrew Lloyd Webber leads the search for a singer/singwriter to create a new, more appropriate National Anthem for the country - a cheesy-pop number encapsulating that most British of themes, "we're a bit shit really, but we do our best".

(Oh, and yes, I did indeed just say that the performance by Queen was worse than the Spice Girls. Because the Spice Girls were no more awful than was always expected, but Queen's performance was an outright assault on something that should be awesome.)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Experimental Cookery 2012: Decadent Rosemary & Worcestershire Sauce Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's Pie has something of a chequered past with me. Years ago, we used to be given store-bought Shepherd's Pie from the freezer aisle, and it was awful. Worse even than fish; this was the meal that I truly hated.

Time went by, and we stopped getting those frozen foods. And, eventually, Dad took up cooking Shepherd's Pie from a Coleman's sachet mix. Which was very nice - one of my favourites.

Well, except for one thing: technically, it wasn't Shepherd's Pie - he used beef mince, which made it Cottage Pie - close, but not the same.

The upshot of all of that being that this is actually the first time I've had a real, home-cooked Shepherd's Pie.

The recipe for this one came from Lorraine Pascale's book "Home Cooking Made Easy", which is one of the more approachable cookery books that I have. The only criticism that I have of this book, and it's a 'flaw' shared by most of them, is that there's a whole lot of work hidden in the list of ingredients, most of which require some preparation before use. (One of the major points in favour of Jamie's "Ministry of Food", in fact, is that he breaks this prep-work out into a separate section.)

Still, that's a quibble. The actual recipe itself was neatly laid out and pretty clear, apart from one part where we have to add an ingredient twice, at two separate stages. (I resolved this by adding half each time; I'm inclined to think it probably doesn't matter much.)

The meal took just over an hour to put together, from the start to getting it into the oven. This was slightly unfortunate, as I'd estimated quite a bit more, so wasn't really ready to eat when the cook-time finished!

Still, I had time to ponder, gather, and put together a very experiemental salad to go with it.

So, how was it?

Well, I liked it. Lady Chocolat liked it. So I guess that's a win!

Basically, it was exactly as you might expect - the filling was suitably meaty, the potato was nice and smooth, and it was just a really satisfying meal. Her suggestion to put a little grated cheese on top also seemed to be a winning idea, so that's good too.

The salad wasn't so good, but since that was essentially "here's what we have in the house", that's maybe not surprising. Even so, if I had skipped the chilli I suspect it would have been a winner in its own right.

So, that's that. We now have three spare portions of Shepherd's Pie for the freezer, suitable for reheating and use at a later time. Huzzah!

(Perhaps ironically, this was inspired by a comment about Shepherd's Pie made by one of the Hairy Bikers, and yet although we have their "Perfect Pies" book, I went with Lorraine's version. Of course, that means that some day soon I'll have to try their Cottage Pie recipe from that book, and see how they stack up to one another... Oh, the hardships!)

The World Pipe Band Championships 2012

This one was always going to be an endurance test. To be honest, even going in I was of mixed feelings: did I want the band to do really well, or did I secretly want them to fall on their faces and come last? The latter isn't a pleasant line of thought, but I would be lying if I didn't consider it.

The bus left for the Worlds at 6:15, but the band weren't playing until 14:45. This ridiculous state of affairs was brought about by the organisers requiring all buses to be on the park by 7:30, no exceptions.

As a result of this, most of the band (ourselves included) elected instead to stay in bed and to get the train in. This made for a much more pleasant morning than is the norm for such things. So we got up, put on the requisite sunblock (which I hate, but which certainly proved its worth), and caught the 10:42 train. A short walk later, and we were on the park.

The band spent the better part of two hours getting ready, which involved a whole lot of messing around with drones, micro-adjustments to chanters, and general nuisance. Still, in theory, all that work should pay off with a much better sound.

Alas, it was not to be. Ten seconds before we went on, a final adjustment was made to my chanter, which moved the High A from "slightly out" to "completely out". And so, every time we hit that note during our performance, I cringed.

(Given the above, I feel I must note that it wasn't me who made that adjustment. So, for that at least, I'm not to blame.)

The performance was, quie frankly, bad. As soon as we'd finished I knew we had no chance of qualification. (Actually, I've known for months, but there are levels of "knowing".) Indeed, although the sound was much better from most of the pipes, the actual playing was considerably worse than in Ireland.

And that included from myself. I had a bad start, made several mistakes, had a bad finish, and of course had a mis-tuned High-A. It was hardly a vintage performance from myself.

Next, we had to hang around for the result, which sure enough confirmed that we hadn't qualified. And then we had to hang around for the march-past...

But not. At this point, the Pipe Major got the train home. The Lead Drummer soon followed. (And a few of the other members followed suit for various reasons.) There was talk that we weren't invited to do the march-past; in any case, we didn't have a band to do it.

Eventually, at half seven, the stewards allowed our driver to extract the bus, and we were able to go home. The day, thankfully, was over.

In hindsight, we should really have gotten return tickets for the train. That way, as soon as the PM and LD left, we could likewise have headed home. But, after last year's fiasco, I really didn't want to run out on the band. Oh well. Won't make that mistake again.

Fortunately, there is now only one competition to go. The two practices this week, plus the competition itself, have served as very strong evidence that I've made the right decision to leave.

Ah, finally, the result: Out of 18 bands in our qualification round, we came 15th, scoring 18th and 16th in piping, and 18th in ensemble. The one major positive was for the drummers, who came 5th. Well done to them. I'm not really sure how that compares with last week - on the one hand, we weren't last. On the other, we came in a worse numerical position. And on the third hand, we would have been last were it not for a much-improved drum corps.

#28: "Star Wars: Choices of One", by Timothy Zahn

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Priorities in the News

On Monday, I was really quite disheartened to find that the news about the successful touch-down of the new Mars rover was buried in the news under a lengthy report on the Olympics, and even under celebrity gossip. Indeed, in the news headlines on the radio, it wasn't mentioned at all.

So, a massively-important breakthrough in science and technology, that may well have massive implications in all our lives* is considered less important that what is, frankly, a glorified circus event for the pacification of the mob**, and even less important than Natalie Portman's secret wedding?

Hmm, I wonder why it is so many of our young people aspire to be reality TV stars, and so few seek to become inventors, scientists, and engineers.

* And that's not an exaggeration. Even if the rover doesn't find evidence of water on Mars, the technologies developed to land the thing will find their way into commercial applications. At a guess, the first benefit we'll see from this will be some safety improvements in the next generation of cars. I mean, I know it's not cool and sexy when slightly fewer people die in crashes in a year, but it's still quite good, isn't it?

** That's probably not fair to the athletes themselves, who truly are the best at what they do, who have gone to great lengths to become the best, and who deserve their plaudits. But I do find myself wondering what the government have planned for next year - they need to find some way to avoid a repeat of the riots.

The worst thing that has ever, ever happened, ever!

Yes, it's so horrifically bad that it requires three "ever"s. This isn't hyperbole at all!

Last night, LC and I were talking about exam results, and at one point I noted that it was unlikely for a 'B' to be upgraded to an 'A' on appeal.

At which point LC noted that she had her History higher upgraded in exactly that manner.

And thus, the very foundations of my world were shaken - for I too have a History higher, which was also upgraded on appeal - from a 'C' to a 'B'.

Oh no!

I shall now go and hang my head in shame.

My Life as a Mad Genius

At the weekend, Lady Chocolat found ourselves on the topic of deep-fried Mars bars. Who can say what manner of bizarre conversationing took us to this pass.

Anyway, LC noted that were we do cook DFMBs, it would be best to get the inaptly-named "fun size" ones, so that it would be possible to eat an entire bar. The thinking being that of course full size Mars bars are entirely impossible to eat.

At which point I was able to deploy one of the great secrets I have learned: the way to eat a Mars bar!

Some years ago, I became keenly aware of the difficulties inherent in eating an entire Mars bar. Frankly, they're too much effort. But, at the same time, I refuse to dignify "fun size" Mars bars as anything other than a cruel trick played on children. (I mean, seriously, who thinks it's fun to get less chocolate?) And so, a solution had to be found.

Being a mad genius, not to mention an engineer (and thus a compulsive problem-solver), I naturally spent an age pondering the issue. Why were Mars bars so hard to eat? Could they be made easier to eat, perhaps with the application of a carefully-thought out algorithm?

Finally, late one night, the answer came to me! The way to successfully eat a Mars bar is upside down*! See, the reason for the difficulty is that when you eat one the right way up, you're biting first through the chewy toffee and then into the soft caramel. This means that you're having to go to some effort to take a meaningful bite. If, however, you eat the bar upside down, you are instead biting down through the soft caramel, followed by the chewy toffee. It's just a much easier process.

* Incidentally, because someone managed to misunderstand me when I told them this (no, really!), you turn the Mars bar upside down. You don't need to be standing on your head!

Nobody ever believes me when I tell them this. Worse, they most often refuse even to test my theory, and thus discover that it actually is correct. (Seriously, it is - if you don't believe me, just try it.) Instead, they prefer to just laugh at the silliness of thinking that it (a) might make any real difference, or (b) that I actually spent time thinking about it.

Fortunately, I get to console myself with Mars bars. But it's a hard life being me.

Monday, August 06, 2012


I've just had a much better weekend. Lots of rest, some nice weather for a change, no long journeys, and relatively little awfulness from the band. So, that's all to the good.

On Friday, Lady Chocolat and I headed off to the cinema to see "Brave", Pixar's latest film. Which has been released in Scotland and Ireland ten whole days before the English release because... well, just because I guess. Maybe they've been distributing guides to the accent or something, so our English friends can unnerstaun it, or something.

I enjoyed it immensely.

"Brave" is an animated film suitable for children, but it's definitely one of the more "adult" Pixar films - it's much more "The Incredibles" than "Finding Nemo", or "Cars". While there is some comedy (and genuinely funny comedy at that), the story is really quite grown-up in nature. Or at least, I thought so.

The next two paragraphs have a couple of minor spoilers, so you might want to skip them, or the rest of the post...

The film was also quite unusual, in that at its centre it was about the relationship between a mother and her daughter - it's actually much more common for films, and especially animated films, to be about fathers and sons, about brothers, or be 'buddy' movies about two men.

But an animated, fantasy, action-oriented film about a mother and her daughter? Yeah, you don't get that very often.

There's not really much more to say. The film shows the same care and attention to detail that can be expected from all Pixar films, they have a great cast (mostly with authentic, rather than Hollywood, accents - no Mel Gibson here), the animation is flawless, the songs are suitable emotive (but lacking the sucker punch of "Toy Story 2"). And at no point did anything in the 3D fail to work for me.

Basically, it's just a really, really good film.

#27: "Conqueror", by Conn Iggulden (The fifth and final part of a six-book series. No, I don't get how that works. Also, an excellent book, almost as good as "Death of Kings". I wonder what he's going to do next?)

Friday, August 03, 2012

Et tu, Brutus?

Or "Yep, I thought that might happen", or even "Last chance to see..." This post could have many titles. It sucks in all of them.

The two weeks since the Pipe Major quit have been the hardest since I joined the band. It seems that every day there has been some new issue that has cropped up requiring immediate attention. And all of this has been to a backdrop of a stressful time at work as well, not to mention my still trying to recover from a horrible cough that just won't go away. The thing that kept me going, mostly, was that I was getting an opportunity to lead the band out at the World Championships next week - an opportunity I hadn't expected, hadn't sought out, but was more than happy to take as I wouldn't get another one.

Can you guess what's coming yet?

At Ireland, our Lead Drummer told me that he had spoken to a friend of his (also a band member), who had indicated that he would be willing to take over until the end of the season. ("To take the pressure off you," he said...)

On the ferry home from Ireland, I told the committee that I wanted to decline this, that I wanted to lead the band myself for the next four weeks. They agreed that this was right. On Monday, I also said this to the band, and asked if there were any objections, and there were not.

Or so I thought...

When he got home, the Lead Drummer proceeded to send an email to the Treasurer, saying that the band had to have a meeting to formally elect an interim Pipe Major. Technically, he was correct, though I had hoped not to bother due to the fact that it was a matter of two months to the AGM, a matter of two competitions, and frankly because we didn't need the distraction.

But, as I said, he was technically correct. And so, we had a meeting.

As expected, the Lead Drummer nominated his friend, and was seconded by another friend. Fair enough. I was nominated also. We therefore had the vote.

And I didn't get it, on an 8-7 majority.

Now, here's the thing: had this been a matter of appointing a full-time PM, I would have stepped aside. But it wasn't - it was a matter of finding someone to fill a space for two competitions.

And, indeed, if I had thought it would make any actual difference, I would have stepped aside. But again, I don't believe that - we're not going to qualify for the final at the Worlds, and we're not going to win a prize at Cowal. At the most, the difference that this might make is between "last" and "not last". Yay.

So, under those circumstances, I believe I should have been given my chance. I believe I had done enough to deserve it this time out.

But fair enough. The band are absolutely within their rights to elect someone else. And, for the good of the band, I will now give the new Pipe Major my full support for the remaining two competitions.

Still, I find this desperately disappointing. And I've now reached my limit - I've given everything I have to give to the band. There's nothing left. As of the AGM, I'm done. Because I have rights too, and it's time to exercise them.